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Friday, January 22, 2016

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids (1958) by Kenzaburo Oe

Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Prize for Literature Winner, 1994.
Book Review
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids (1958)
 by Kenzaburo Oe

  Published in Japan in 1958, translated into English in 1995, one year after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nib the Buds, Shoot the Kids was his first novel, published when he was 23 years old.  Oe was famously affiliated with the Japanese left, and Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids is a tale which reflects his strident criticism of Japanese behavior during World War II.  In Nip the Buds, the narrator is the reluctant leader of a group of juvenile delinquents who have been evacuated from their urban holding facility in the final stages of World War II.  They are brought to a hostile, remote village where they are almost immediately abandoned by the villagers after an outbreak of plague.  Left to their own devices, they enjoy a bittersweet interlude of freedom and self-determination which comes to a screeching halt upon the return of the villagers.

  Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids has elements of Orwell and the French existentialists, but it maintains an undeniably Japanese spine that comes over even in English translation.  Only one hundred and ninety pages or so, Nip the Buds is a fast read, almost like a contemporary fairy tale.

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